June 3, 2011 – Dr. Jack Kevorkian dies peacefully listening to Bach

06/04/2011

I find Dr. Kevorkian’s life interesting and the specific ending to his life compelling.  Intriguing.  Mysterious.

I mean, after his staunch support of assisted suicide over the years, I half expected him to go out with a bang – a final thumbing of the nose to the government system he found so overbearing or a final message to the world regarding his well-known topic.  But peacefully in bed listening to his favorite music??  Hmmm… curious.

I’m aware that I am probably even more drawn to his story now because of my personal experience of watching someone die in bed listening to their favorite music.   (For the record, that still seems to me a pretty good way to go! – minus all the suffering that may come beforehand.)  However, I also personally know Geoffrey Fieger and consulted him while my dad was suffering.  And in my dad’s final week, my mother and I left our bedside vigil in order to attend the by-invitation Detroit premiere of the HBO film, “You Don’t Know Jack” – a very interesting dichotomy.

However, I think Dr. Jack’s personal ending purely demonstrates his overall mission – he wasn’t ever trying to avoid life by choosing death.  Rather, he was trying to help dying people avoid suffering and loss of dignity.  People who knew they were going to slowly die from an incurable disease.  People who were already experiencing increased pain and suffering every day.  THAT’s where Dr. Jack gets me every time.  I connect with that concept.  Always have.  Even before my experience with Alzheimer’s.

But, let’s face it, Dr. Kevorkian himself wasn’t suffering in the end – he was simply dying.  He was dying of natural causes and he chose to continue on that route.  I think that’s cool.  I think it’s important for him to have made that choice for himself.  Not the specific choice of choosing a natural death necessarily – but rather that he probably considered all of his options… and then he powerfully chose his exit strategy.  I think there’s dignity in being able to choose how you die.

(NOTE: I clearly understand that he went to jail for actively administering a lethal dosage to someone which made it “active voluntary euthanasia” vs. his previous acts of “physician-assisted suicide” where he provided the dosage to someone else to administer to themselves. Click these links for an explanation of the difference and the variances of the law.)

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2 Responses to “June 3, 2011 – Dr. Jack Kevorkian dies peacefully listening to Bach”

  1. Barry said

    Hi Joleen,

    Hope all is well for you and yours. They say time heals …

    This is an interesting subject you bring up.

    Numerous variables can come into play with end of life situations, as I’m sure you know all too well.

    Heck I thought Mom had taken care of everything with her living will and her wishes not to be kept alive via machine. Treatment was allowed, no long term life support though.

    Who could have guessed a harmless little feeding tube inserted to help her get over an infection would have left me failing the role of God a year or so down the line?

    You see, they(the doctors) figured it best to keep the tube in (after her release) to supplement her calorie intake in the form of bolus feeding (no machine, just gravity to make work)

    At the time it seemed like a good choice because Mom still had some sense of her whereabouts, although in the late stages of dementia would have un-explainable moments of clarity, which made all my efforts on her behalf worth while.

    Well, about 8 months down the road, this feeding tube became her sole source of nutrition, voiding her the opportunity to unknowingly put her misery and suffering (not to selfishly mention my own as her caregiver) to rest by refusing to eat like so many victims of Alzheimer’s wickedness do.

    Who was I to play the role of God and stop her feedings and stop her suffering? Even if I had the stones to do it, I most likely would have ended up in prison.

    This madness dragged out for about another year until her seemingly peaceful passing 4/16/2011, with me holding her hand, whispering “it’s ok to leave mom, I love you” into her ear.

    I guess the point is, we thought we had it all worked out, but in reality, obviously we didn’t.

    Looking back, I still don’t know what could have been done to avoid a situation like ours.

    Thanks for listening Joleen.

    Yours in healing ourselves,

    Kind Regards

    Barry G.

    • I know, Barry, it’s a slippery slope! A very intense and complex subject. I’m curious to see how it gets responded to in general.

      My heart goes out to you regarding how you had to stand by and helplessly watch your mom slowly wither… but how wonderful that you were with your mom in the very end!! I hope that part is a good memory for you. Your mom passed away 9 days before my dad – which, interestingly enough, was my dad’s first day of refusing all food and drink. The start of his final 9 days. It’s so intriguing how the details of each Alzheimer’s case is so incredibly different – yet all caregivers still “know” the same things, allowing them to easily relate to one another.

      My personal guess is that somewhere along the way ALL Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers must (at least momentarily) contemplate participating in some end of life action or conversation. However, I don’t think most would admit it. But I know the ride firsthand and I can honestly say that there were times I purposely didn’t roll my camera because I was afraid of what might happen next. The Alzheimer’s experience forces caregivers into a very deep moral debate from which you truly learn who you are at your core. Tough lesson! Glad I know who I am but I would never want to relive that experience!

      Thanks for your insight, sharing, and support. Hope to talk again!

      ~ J

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